By Michael Lanza
Sunlight still lit up the trees high up the mountainside above me, visible through the canopy of maple, oak, and tulip poplar trees, but down in the bottom of the valley, dusk had settled in at least an hour earlier. Rosebay rhododendron and a variety of ferns carpeted the ground. I had the trail all to myself hiking to Moore Cove, in the Pisgah National Forest of western North Carolina; and save for the songs of some birds and the soft conversation of water flowing over rocks, the silence exerted an immediate calming effect—like I had taken a happy pill. It’s lovely to have a piece of Appalachian forest to yourself.
Then I reached Moore Cove and gazed up at a 50-foot waterfall free falling in a veil of silvery water over the lip of a deep, rock alcove.
While I do most of my hiking and backpacking in the West, a region known for its big vistas, I first fell in love with hiking in the Appalachian Mountains—which have big vistas, too. But these older, Eastern peaks deliver some of their best moments in more intimate scenery, where you’re in the scene, standing in the stream or walking behind the waterfall—as you can do at Moore Cove.
And few areas of the country have waterfalls of such beauty and in such abundance as western North Carolina.
I leapt at an opportunity to spend a week last October chasing waterfalls, fall foliage color, and classic Southern Appalachian views while dayhiking in the mountains surrounding Asheville, N.C., and backpacking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I hiked to numerous waterfalls along the Blue Ridge Parkway, in the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests and Gorges State Park, including famous ones like Crabtree Falls (lead photo at top of story), more obscure but pretty ones like Roaring Fork Falls, and the tallest in the East, 811-foot Whitewater Falls.
The photo gallery below spotlights several of the waterfalls I saw.
See all of my stories about dayhiking and backpacking in the western North Carolina mountains, including:
“The 12 Best Dayhikes Along North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway.”
“In the Garden of Eden: Backpacking the Great Smoky Mountains.”
“Roof of the East: Hiking North Carolina’s Mount Mitchell.”
“The 25 Best National Park Dayhikes” for a description of a hike along the Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
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